Today Michael Jackson was acquitted of the ten counts against him. I tried not to pay attention to the trial, but the prurient details sometimes proved irrestistible: the sad porn collection of a middle-aged man, the secret jukebox passageways, the licking of boys' heads (!). All those bizarre Europeans camping out the courthouse for months at a time, with their weird fashions and curiously juvenile posters. What is going on here? And why couldn't the posters have been better? It's not like they have much else to do, besides weep a lot.
In eighth grade I wrote an English paper about Michael Jackson's arrested development, his efforts to recover a childhood from within his gilded cage. When I was very young I used to go crazy when my parents played "Beat It" - I developed a foot-stomping, furiously aerobic dance dubbed the Boothead Shuffle by parents and relatives, a state of mind into which I would plummet whenever I heard those first guitar licks. I did this on birthdays, anniversaries, family reunions, and at least one occasion in which a video camera was present.
All this to say that my relationship with Michael Jackson is long and multifaceted. Today I can't even listen to him on my iPod. I see how the prosecution couldn't prove anything beyond that pesky reasonable doubt, I see how the accuser turned out to be a total wackjob with the reliability of a narcoleptic doing air traffic control, but something is not right. He should have been found guilty of something. If not a crime, then at least squandering a life of wealth and influence.
Honestly, he should have died tragically in a plane crash in the late 80s. Or even, say, 1993 - I'd give him "Dangerous" just for the joys of "Remember the Time." But think how he would be remembered if he left this earth before all of this came out. In some ways it may have been better - and that is a sad and deflating idea to consider.